Dr. Ernest Márquez – Microbiologist - SACNAS

mumpsimuskneesBiotechnology

Feb 12, 2013 (4 years and 6 months ago)

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High School Level

Copyright © 2011 SACNAS

www.sacnas.org

Dr. Ernest Márquez – Microbiologist
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If he has “seen further than other men,” Isaac Newton once said, it was
because he “stood on the shoulders of giants.” And so it is with me. I find it
difficult to express the deep appreciation I have for the people who impacted
my life. My parents—proud, hardworking, resilient people—gave me my
start in life. My father helped build the Palacio de Bellas Artes in Mexico
City and later served with Pancho Villa in the Mexican Revolution, before
coming to the United States to work on the railroad. My mother, orphaned at
an early age, was a reilera (a soldier’s wife who accompanied her husband
on military campaigns in the Mexican Revolution), until her first husband
was killed at the Battle of Torreon. Because of their families’ poverty and
the tumultuous nature of the war, neither of my parents had a formal
education. Both migrated to the United States where they met, fell in love,
and began our family.
Living in a converted boxcar, they traveled throughout the Southwest, with my older brothers being born
in places like El Paso, Texas; Deming, Arizona; and Niland, California. Realizing the importance of
education for their children, my parents settled in the small town of Tranquillity, California, so they could
build a permanent home and their children could get an education. This is where many of my siblings
were born and raised. Of my older brothers, four volunteered and fought in the Second World War, two in
Korea, and one in Vietnam, and all were decorated for valor in battle. My sister is an activist who fought
to assist Chicanos and other underserved people in achieving the American Dream. I honestly believe that
I have a family of true American heroes, true “giants,” upon whom I can depend.
My start as a scientist began with my fascination with biology, and it was then that I began to know the
power of mentoring. When I attended Tranquillity Union High School, a teacher piqued my interest in
biology by making the course fascinating and by fostering my growing interest in science. After
graduation, I went to California State University Fresno where I received a great deal of mentoring from
my professors, and I eventually graduated with a bachelor’s degree in biology.
After graduation, I was accepted into the U.S. Navy’s Officer Candidate School and then served in the
navy as a Destroyer Deck Officer. After active duty service, I decided to return to California State
University Fresno State to earn a master’s degree in microbiology. My mentors persuaded me to continue
on to a doctoral program and facilitated my acceptance to the University of Southern California, School of
Medicine. There I earned a PhD in microbial biochemistry under the mentorship of the chairs of the
Departments of Biochemistry and Microbiology, and supported by a competitive fellowship. Afterward,
my predoctoral mentor escorted me on a visit to several universities in La Jolla, where I met several
prominent scientists including my future postdoctoral mentor. There I competed and was awarded an NIH
two-year postdoctoral fellowship at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. At Scripps, my preceptor and
mentor taught me by example that science was not only extraordinarily interesting, but it was exciting and
fun as well.
My first faculty appointment was to the Department of Microbiology at the Pennsylvania State University
College of Medicine, where the department chairman served as my mentor and was highly instrumental in
my receiving tenure and promotion. I conducted research in immunology and virology, and coordinated
the medical microbiology course for medical and graduate students.
Dr. Ernest Márquez – Microbiologist
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Copyright © 2011 SACNAS

www.sacnas.org

As one who enjoys new challenges, I left my tenured position and entered a new phase in my career by
working in the biotechnology industry—I held positions such as senior scientist and director of
microbiology product development. In these biotechnology companies, I directed the development of
reagents and diagnostic tests to aid in the diagnosis of infectious diseases such as HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis,
and other bacterial and viral diseases. I also served as an adjunct faculty member at the Tufts School of
Medicine, Department of Microbiology.
After six years in industry, I again decided that I needed a further challenge. I spoke to a good friend at the
National Institutes of Health (NIH)—who suggested that I might like to work there. Soon the chief of the
Office of Scientific Review offered me a position as a scientific review administrator at the NIGMS, with
the responsibility of administering the review of scientific grant applications. After three years, I moved
on to become chief, Office of Scientific Review of the NINR and executive secretary of the National
Advisory Council for Nursing Research. In 1996, I became chief of the MBRS Branch at the NIGMS, and
in 2001, I was selected to become the associate director for Special Populations, NIMH, where I served
until my retirement in 2008.
I presently continue as a member of the faculty of the School of Arts and Sciences, Johns Hopkins
University, and I teach a course in biotechnology. In all the positions I held at the NIH and at Johns
Hopkins, I both received mentoring and was a mentor—not only to my staff, but also to many students
and faculty at research institutions throughout the country.
I truly believe that mentoring is crucial to everyone’s success. SACNAS, with its tradition of mentorship,
is a unique and wonderful organization. I have been an active supporter of SACNAS for many years, and
indeed fortunate to be elected to the SACNAS Board of Directors and later elected to be president of the
Board, beginning January 1, 2011.